Love: Refreshing Love

27 02 13 00:30 by tamr
The other night we had dinner at a pub in SanFrancisco, and I ordered a steak salad with bleu cheese crumbles. I'm not kidding, it was just wonderful: the saltiness of the steak, the pairing flavors of the cheese, and the Smithwicks to go along side. If we didn't have company, and if I didn't have decency, I really would have ordered another one. It tasted completely wonderful.

I thoroughly enjoy new things, even if it isn't entirely pleasant. I like new ideas, new foods, new colors, different clothes (helps being a seamstress here, I'll say that), different books, different places. It feels refreshing to me. I get a mental cabin-fever pretty quickly, so if I don't have something new going on somewhere, I get cranky. And moody. I understand this aspect of me, and I do my best to plan ahead to combat boredom. It's similar to football fans going to a rugby game: sure, it's a game, but it's not football. Dinner this week: not the same things we had last week. Sure, it's a meal, but it's not different. Books I'm reading? Projects I'm working on? Topics I'm thinking about? These all have to change during the week/month. Sure, I could do the same thing every day/every week, but where is the excitement in that?

Case in point: I need a new vegetable to eat, so I got a Costco bag of brussel sprouts. I can't say these are my favorite all...and the whole "steam until withered and drown in butter" theory doesn't work for me either. But I need to conquer this food! So today I tossed the whole bunch of them in olive oil, kosher salt, ground black pepper, basil, parsley, garlic powder and parmesan cheese and baked it at 400F for 40 minutes. I'm not kidding, it was actually really good! I don't know if I can get anyone else in the house to eat them; but between you and me, they were very very tasty.

And different! Total score.

In regards to the topic of refreshing love, I would say that it is very difficult to find refreshing love in environments or relationships that aren't fresh, innovative, creative, heartfelt, meaningful or deliberate. Love grows and changes, and adapts over time. The love Ben and I have now is a very different flavor than what it was 19 years ago. You can't eat the same can of green beans for 19 years...spice it up, be creative, and serve brussel sprouts!

Here is a story I was reading the other day that was interesting:

"Todd Putman, who worked at Coca-Cola from 1997 to 2001, said the goal ( for the company ) became much larger than merely beating the rival brands; Coca-Cola strove to outsell every other thing people drank, including milk and water. The marketing divisions efforts boiled down to one question, Putman said: How can we drive more ounces into more bodies more often?"

How about we say that Coke and Putnam wanted to give love to the world. They had a love product, and they had an audience who loved their product. So it was Putnam's job to find different, better, more effective ways of selling this love to people.

In his capacity, Dunn was making frequent trips to Brazil, where the company had recently begun a push to increase consumption of Coke among the many Brazilians living in favelas. The companys strategy was to repackage Coke into smaller, more affordable 6.7-ounce bottles, just 20 cents each. Coke was not alone in seeing Brazil as a potential boon; Nestl began deploying battalions of women to travel poor neighborhoods, hawking American-style processed foods door to door. But Coke was Dunns concern, and on one trip, as he walked through one of the impoverished areas, he had an epiphany. A voice in my head says, These people need a lot of things, but they dont need a Coke. I almost threw up.

All of a sudden, you realize that the love you've been selling is expensive, consumerist, financially debilitating and furthermore, it is not healthy for this audience...and it's your job to sell more. What do you do?

You quit. You just walk right out of that company and you realize that love can be refreshing. Love can lift people up. Love can compel people to be happier, live more deliberately, refreshing love can be healthy and add more years to your life. But how?

Refreshing love has got to be creative:

"They ( a huge company ) recently hired Dunn to run one of their newest acquisitions a food producer in the San Joaquin Valley. As they sat in the hotels meeting room, the men listened to Dunns marketing pitch. He talked about giving the product a personality that was bold and irreverent, conveying the idea that this was the ultimate snack food. He went into detail on how he would target a special segment of the 146 million Americans who are regular snackers mothers, children, young professionals people, he said, who keep their snacking ritual fresh by trying a new food product when it catches their attention....

The snack that Dunn was proposing to sell: carrots. Plain, fresh carrots. No added sugar. No creamy sauce or dips. No salt. Just baby carrots, washed, bagged, then sold into the deadly dull produce aisle.

We act like a snack, not a vegetable, he told the investors. We exploit the rules of junk food to fuel the baby-carrot conversation. We are pro-junk-food behavior but anti-junk-food establishment.

He is still in the business of love, and he has learned how to sell love for many years. But his love is creative, it is healthy, it is a deliberate idea and it lifts people up. It is creative, refreshing love.

So how do you find refreshing love in your life? This is really harder than it sounds, especially if you're already in a rut. Tony Robbins has a great 6 point idea that explains the different things people need to be happy and fulfilled in life:

Certainty: Some people need that Certainty that they can avoid pain and have comfort or pleasure. How do people get certainty? Example 1: Work Really Hard to Master Something So There is No Uncertainty That YOU Are the Best! Example 2: Lower Your Expectations. If youre certain that it wont work anyway you satisfy this need. My Side: I am certain that I have a marriage and a home, and our lifestyle is absolutely set. Ben works and I stay home and teach the kids. I completely rely on this Certainty to give me stability in my life.

Uncertainty: We Need Variety to Feel Alive. How do people get variety? Anything that changes your state. Different Foods, a new book, having a conversation with someone new.My Side: Uncertainty for me is weekend trips to the coast or exploring trips to the forests. Mixing things up for dinner, or starting a new television show with Ben. Painting the walls, planting new things in the garden, meeting new people

Significance: To Feel Unique, Important, and Special. EVERYONE has these needs, but what Beliefs about how to meet this need? Example 1: Serving and making a difference in the world Example 2: DominatingMy Side: Significance is extremely important to me. If I don't feel like my work, my love, my words, my time or my efforts are significant at all, I give up completely. It is important to me to have a purpose in my day/projects, and if there is no purpose, then I feel worthless. Now, this doesn't give me the leverage to be an attention seeking diva; for the most part, it is important to wisely pick your work so that it reflects the values you believe in, and to do the work as best as you can unselfishly. But I also need to know that what I am doing is for a purpose, for a reason and someone will appreciate it somehow.

Connection: Love is in our DNA. Do you meet the need for connection in Neutral ways, Negative Ways, or Empowering Ways.

My Side: Connection is pretty important to me. I am not happy just showing up and leaving, and never connecting with someone. I need to connect with the kids and with Ben every day. I absolutely don't need to be around crowds...let me correct that: I avoid crowds. But I need to connect with individuals in order to feel fulfilled.

These 4 are the Needs of the Personality EVERYONE FINDS a Way to meet the first 4 Needs in someway but Not Everyone Meets the Last 2. The Ultimate Needs.

Growth: Everything in the world is growing or dieing. Its a constant process ocuring in life. Reason that we grow is to satisfy the next Need

Contribution: We GROW so we have something to give. What makes you feel alive is to know its MORE than just you. You are making a meaningful impact on others.

It is absolutely crucial in life to keep love refreshed.

Last Day of School!

31 05 12 21:38 by tamr
I will totally admit that it is hard to stop school when you homeschool. It becomes the routine of the day, and things tend to get wonky when you are off the routine. Laundry doesn't seem to get done as often, the dishes pile up with all this spare time you have to cook elaborate stuff, and my desk is the open door of opportunity for everything.

Ben may or may not attest to this.

But I did write "Last Day of School" on the calendar, and Nova noticed that it was TODAY. They were pretty excited that they didn't have to do spelling at 9, as is our routine, and promptly got into their bathing suits and headed outside into our inflatable pool. Thank goodness for SPF 50+ sunscreens, because it's the afternoon and they are STILL in there. I will say, Conrad and Eve went down for a nap pretty easily after 4 hours of pool time and lunch :)

Between you and me, I will miss doing school. I truly enjoy finding new things to discover and different ways to learn math. This morning I gave the kids bananas with whipped cream for breakfast, and the bananas were a little squishy. Nova said, "I have a hypothesis to why they are squishy!" I assure you, my heart sang after hearing these words.

Yet, in the same way that it is essential for the kids to have a break, it is equally as important for me to get into a different creative gear. I am loving watching the kids come up with all their different games outside, figuring out how to turn into turtles, how to get the bugs and grass out of the pool, how to form alliances, etc. I love watching the act of play, and I am so enormously grateful we are raising our kids to know how to do this on their own; without structured organization, or categorizations of time. Just random child's play using their imaginations, and oftentimes a stick. I have no qualms against video games, since we are a bit of a gaming family; but it just seems like there is a crucial mineral children recover outside when they find adventures in their backyards.

I, on the other hand, have been holed up behind my cluttered desk sipping water and coffee and exploring a list of crafting projects I didn't have time for during the school year. For instance, I would love a 50s dress...but ModCloth is just a little too pricey for me. So I got some old maternity dresses I made last summer and tore them apart, and I'm building a new dress. It is going to be EPIC. With RUFFLES.

I also have wanted to try my hand at quilling for a long time, but never had a reason. So the other day at Michael's, I bought a pack of groovy scrapbooking paper and printed maps of places we have been onto tissue paper. I put the maps on the groovy paper, and I have them hanging on the wall next to the stairs...and I'm making little quilling flowers to go around the maps for decoration. It's SO MUCH FUN, and I am so glad I have a vacation during which to do this!

And although I will miss the progress of school, I would hate to look back on a summer of opportunity and realize that I spent the whole summer doing school or work, when I so easily had the ability to do something else that I no longer had time for. I think this is the most important part of summer vacation for teachers: really, take a break. Go explore something, and come back to school in a month or two with invigorated energy, and self-fulfillment on your side.

The Rope Bridge of Homeschooling

26 05 12 16:53 by tamr
The end of the year comes nigh, and I'm rethinking how we are going to strategize next year's schooling goals. I'm pretty happy with the books and programs we've used this year, so I'm going to keep those. Saxon Math ROCKS, so we're sticking with that for now. Story of the World is absolutely fascinating, but it's pretty dry. I'm still on the fence with that one. R.E.A.L. Science was good. The grammar from The Well-Trained Mind series was pretty phenomenal, so we're keeping that; although I am going to be looking into the Institute of Exceptional Writing (IEW).

The funny thing, at least for me, is that I have been reading "The Element" and "Out of Our Minds" by Sir Ken Robinson for a while now, and they are both just absolutely the most riveting books to read. The thing is, this is my element: learning. I love to learn and I love to pass on the learning through education and writing.

I remember exactly when I realized what I wanted to do this for the rest of my life when my family was camping one summer. Our dad was sitting on the back of his truck, and we had gotten distracted from unloading it and ended up listening to him tell us about WWI leading up to WWII. It was just absolutely fascinating stuff to me, and that is when I discovered that I wanted to know everything. Not in a "powerful Wizard of Oz" way, because I can assure you that I will never understand electricity the way Ben and Glenn do. But I just wanted to keep discovering until I could find nothing left to discover. That's why I read so much, this is why we explore crazy places, this is why our trip to Beijing was the most incredible experience: there was SO much to discover and learn. My degree in Literature enabled me to learn about societies, from the point of view of the people, which barely reach the surface of understanding today. Okay, I'm going off on a tangent here...

So when Robinson was describing how this one dancer, Gillian, came into her element when she entered a dancing school and saw every other girl there who couldn't keep still and had to keep moving in order to maintain themselves, I completely understood. This is how I feel every time I read about another learning system, or a new curriculum, or I discuss styles with other educators. I LOVE education. It is just the most fascinatingly amazing thing in the world to me. I could talk about the strategies of Aristotle, of Waldorf, of the theories of Classical vs. Traditional vs. Modern Thinking...I find them all just amazing.

Recently I have been up to my ears trying to fully understand The Blue School, which is rather difficult since it is in New York and I am out here in CA.

There are a number of obstacles with understanding The Blue School though: foremost, I think, is that the people running it are from Harvard and Ivy League universities. My degree is from a podunk state university. Now, while this isn't the end of the world, I will say that the mentality of Harvard is quite different (yes, I realize this is kind of an understatement, but stay with me). The people who graduate from my university talk about going on to teaching, going into the Peace Corps., going into small businesses, etc. We're thinking workers.

However, in higher universities, such as Harvard, it is typical to instill the thought of making the world a better place by giving. Give your money if you are rich (see: Bill Gates), give your gifts if you have gifts (see: FDR and his ability to instill hope during the Depression). You can see a list of Harvard graduates here and get an idea as to what these people hoped to get out of life: giving something to the world to make it a better place. This is seriously overgeneralizing the point I am trying to make, so just keep reading; I don't want to go down a rabbit trail of what every graduate from Ivy League schools have or have not accomplished. I just wanted to point out that the mentality is "society" instead of "individuals." They leave with a bigger picture of how the world is run, and how they can participate in running it; as opposed to my position, which is happily "individual."

So with that said, The Blue School is the crux of Modern Education.

Just a quick perspective on why this is interesting: Classical Education (at least from an American point of view) ranges from Colonialism-1810. You learned Latin, Greek, Literature, Math...but specifically it has a system of Trivium where there is the level of Grammar, Dialectic and Rhetoric (basically, Elementary school, Jr. High and High school). Then there is Traditional Education, which is essentially the one-room schoolhouse idea; but the lessons start moving away from Classical education in Latin, and more towards applicable subjects. Finally, around 1910 came Modern Education, and this was much more pragmatic in structure. Kids needed a more pragmatic education in order to learn how to be functional citizens post-Industrial Revolution, and education helped this idea along. This makes sense to me. If a student is schooled in Latin and Literature, how will they be able to work in a factory when they graduate? Not very well. So Modern Education supplemented where Classical and Traditional Education left gaping holes.

The thing about today, though, is that there aren't many factories to participate in anymore (unless you count public education, which is a valid argument, I think). So we're back to educating for ideas. This is where The Blue School comes in. They want their students to really explore their minds through education, through art, through creativity, and come out the other side with a bigger idea of the world than any textbook could offer them. But it is thickly Modern Education: society over individual, creativity over Latin, self-expression over "the right answer." Kind of. Big sweeping generalities here.

So, I just finished a 3 day event in a Classical Education forum, and it was pretty awesome but completely different from The Blue School. The direction they want to take the kids is fantastic, the bar is really high and the kids are collaborating in a group to achieve academic goals...while still homeschooling. It is FAN-TASTIC. I love it. But there is a lot of Kool-Aid to drink.

I am not a Kool-Aid drinker. Even when I lead Kool-Aid groups, or am a member of Kool-Aid communities, I just swirl it around in the glass the whole time. I just can't jump in that far...because it's ridiculous. I think Classical Education is great, no two ways about it. I am looking forward to teaching my kids both pragmatic and Classical education, so they have a good balance between thinking and doing. But do I think Dewey killed education, and we should go back 300 years in educational learning?

No. This is the dumbest thing I've heard....well, the second dumbest thing I've heard so far. The absolute dumbest thing was that our daughters don't need higher education because they were designed to be helpers, and only our sons really needed the higher education because they would actually be working.

No, I didn't laugh my way out of the auditorium. But I took a big huge note never to interact with that woman's group ever again. wow.

Ok, so this whole "300 years ago was so much better!"idea is just absurd. 300 years ago, I wouldn't be able to teach anything. Heck, even 100 years ago women weren't allowed in University libraries unchaperoned. 300 years ago we were still trying to figure out how to start a nation and farm the land. 300 years ago we didn't have the internet, we didn't have cars, we didn't have telephones, we didn't have freaking pavement on the streets. So teaching our kids now in the same way kids were taught 300 years ago is a good idea? Really?

But what about the Blue School idea? Do I really buy into the extreme education of self-pacing/student-directed education? Ehh, not so much. A little, but not so much. On one hand, students really do get to pick what they learn, and the instructors help augment the lessons to hit every subject. I love this idea, and we're doing this now actually. We had a huge unit on The Universe, and it included constellations, biographies, writing about what we've discovered, etc, etc. But it is applicable on a very, very small scale. Just for an example: the Khan Academy, which is also totally awesome, had a little experiment in Oakland. 6th graders were given self-directed math lessons for a few months, and the instructors checked the results afterward. The kids did SIGNIFICANTLY worse when they were self-taught...because they didn't care. In the public school system, students are motivated to get through the tests. "Will this be on the test?" if not, then who cares. And that's what Khan discovered: if kids didn't need to be tested on something, their motivation to learn was gone. So they just breezed through the math and retained none of it.

Now, this is a systematic problem and not an academic problem. The problem is in the culture of the school, which is why The Blue School started with pre-school kids and moved up from there, as opposed to starting with Jr. High kids and tried to re-engineer learning then. It just wouldn't work.

But for us homeschoolers, how about we realize that we are in the middle of a societal revolution, and start teaching accordingly. There needs to be a balance between technology and textbooks, between individualism and society, between Latin and learning German, between academics and pragmatism. We need to learn from the masters, and see what is and isn't working in Modern and Classical forums, and pass on these lessons to our own kids.

Less Kool-Aid, more re-discovering hydration in general.

How Philosophy Class Messed Me Up.

09 03 12 01:55 by tamr
Philosophy class should be as terrifying to people as clowns.

It can royally mess with your head. Because before you walk in to the class, you think: things are good. Pretty static. When you fall, you call down, not sideways. Life's good!

And then you learn about Philosophy, and your head explodes. Anything that is a fact is actually something that someone created/imagined up, and the details of the fact could change at any moment. You may turn green. It's possible!!

Ugh. Anyway, so philosophy is hard for some of us to handle. Ben reads philosophy like a duck on water: they just belong together. I take to philosophy like a labrador on lsd. It's not pretty, and people get hurt.

Fortunately, I healed after a while and I forgot about the big parts of the class upon which I wigged out. There was one example, though, which the professor was trying to get us to think bigger...and it just messed me up. It's not a big thing, so hold on:

He dropped the eraser once. And it fell. He picked it up and dropped it again. And it fell again. He picked it up and asked us if it would fall again? The answer was no.

Why was it no? It was no because it didn't have to fall. It wasn't destined to fall. Gravity caused it to fall...and that was a causation principle...but it didn't "have to" fall.

That messed me up for purely independent reasons. I was dealing with partial simple epilepsy seizures at the time, and I hadn't yet been diagnosed. I didn't even know at the time that they *were* seizures; I just knew that sometimes my mind went **poof** like dandelion seeds. So this idea that reality doesn't "have to" be constant was terrifying. After I got control over the seizures, the fear that bridges would suddenly disappear under me subsided. ( wasn't that bad, it was just weird. For the record.)

However, the idea that reality could change always stuck with me. I don't have to be here. I could be somewhere else. I don't have to vote Republican. I could not vote at all. I don't have to watch TV, I don't have to listen to the radio, I don't have to read popular literature, I don't have to go to dive bars, I don't have to buy into the system.....I don't have to do anything.

Which is an interesting concept, if you think about it: I don't have to do anything.

So, if you start living with this idea, that you don't have to do anything, where do you start doing something? What motivates you do do something at all? Things, actions, relationships become much more deliberate with this force behind you. I don't have to listen to junk. I can listen to interesting things and people. I don't have to read drivel. I can read mind inspiring ideas. I don't have to go to groups. I can participate in intimate relationships with individuals, instead.

I can homeschool my kids, instead of having to send them to a school with which I don't agree. I can have a solid relationship with my husband, instead of relying on other people to fulfill my emotional needs. I can raise chickens in the city, instead of believing that I can't.

I remember when I was preparing to go to Beijing with Ben and the fam, there was a woman I was talking with at a fountain while our kids played in the water. She was nervous about moving somewhere, and it came up that we were on our way to Beijing soon. I will never forget what she said: "You can't do that. You can't go to China with your kids. You can't go!"

I can :) I can go, we can take our kids, and we can build a new future for our family. And not only did we, but we LOVED it. It was by far one of the most amazing things we have ever done!

Reality isn't fixed. We can change our situations, we can raise our kids better, we can have loving relationships with our spouses, we can support our huge family on one income, we can travel long distances with little kids, we can grow our own food, we can teach our own kids....we can be successful in life. And anyone who says differently isn't looking through the windows of opportunity life has built into the walls which frame our lives.

I am telling you, you can. And it has probably been done it can't be that hard!

Golden Light

15 02 12 16:39 by tamr
An old friend from Fremont needed a poem to perform at a women's conference in Portland, so she called me and asked if I could help her out. She said she liked it and was crying, so that's a good sign...especially since I haven't written much lately.

(I wish I knew how to format html better...there are actually blocks of text in here.)

When I dance

I dance in golden light.

My feet linger in the illuminated path

feeling the warmth penetrate all the way

up to my heart, and out of my mouth in song.

I found my dance in the shadow of my mother,

who gave me the gift of God’s light.



My dance was not always this way.

This golden light did not always beam

so generously upon my face.

I had already lived numerous, countless years

turning in my shoes of vanity

spinning in the light I could only see during the day.

This was not due to the turning of the Earth,

which could easily go on turning without me...

The world was simply dark

before my eyes grew accustomed to the light.


When I was a girl,

I wore my mother’s dancing shoes.

They were older, and worn, and beige.

They were the only shoes she had to wear

when she went out, beautifully, with my dad.

As I became a woman of my own,

my heart desired the beauty I saw in my mother.

The lavender grace that went before her through doors.

I bought colorful shoes, thinking they would usher me

through similar doors of grace;

dancing their way through life in shades of pink.


I wore them all through my days,

my years of dancing in the world:

the slow waltz of school,

the lazy serenade of romance,

the busy foxtrot of church,

and the confusing tango of me.

None of these shoes gave me the light

my mother possessed when she moved.

Nothing I could see

could shine so goldenly.



I had to remember before my dancing days

when I could still see the golden rays

bouncing off of daffodils and dandelions;

lighting the rooms, the world, my eyes

with the splendor of Heaven,

and the grace of His Spirit.

This was the light that surrounded my mother,

it was a light that could not come from any other.


I remember when I put my dyed dancing shoes away,

and finally felt the warm green grass again

on my cold bare feet,

which had been hidden away

in too many shoes.

I remembered how warm

was God’s light on my face

when I looked away from the world,

and looked up...

Getting Out of the Bathrobe

24 01 12 02:23 by tamr
To start this piece, I’ll just admit that I have been seriously AWOL on blogging for the past few months/year. I get a hermit-induced cave built around me in the latter stages of pregnancy, to the point that I am sincerely avoidant after the baby is born. There are a number of reasons why this happens: first off,I don’t feel particularly well being so gigantic, and I just get tired of “it all.” I get tired of feeling worn out, and I get tired of talking about how worn out I am. Ben can tell you best of all how unwilling I am to talk about my feelings. They are just an albatross around my maternity belt, and I go out of my way to wear extra-baggy clothes to hide the dumb bird.

So, that being said, I’m working on recovering both physically and emotionally. I am actually able to *walk* without being in stupid pain (stupid pain: (adj.) pain that is not detrimental to the body, nor is a symptom of any other underlying problem, but merely exists to cause pain because the baby is sitting on top of your spinal cord, and thus, all the nerve endings attached to said spinal cord). I am also working on getting out of the house and inviting people over to visit more often, which is helping in working me out of my hermit cave.

In doing so, I am also able to use my brain more....which is AWESOME! If you have ever heard a woman complain about “mommy brain,” I assure you it is real. Your body is so flooded with hormones and UFIs (unrecognized floating ideas) that you really can’t discuss anything lengthier than how long the wind blew that day: “A long time...? I think...?” I thoroughly enjoy thinking, so this period of unthinking is tedious and exhausting; because I still try to think, but halfway through trying to think about thinking...I lose my train of thought. This gets old quickly, I assure you. I have had to write lists of things I am actively doing around the house so I remember to finish the load of laundry that I put in the washer, but forgot to shut the door; finish unloading the ENTIRE dishwasher before getting sidetracked and making corndog muffins for the kids; brushing my teeth after I put toothpaste on my toothbrush, and not start reorganizing the closet behind me. Stuff like that. If you have been a pregnant woman, or have spent any time around’ll know “mommy brain” when you see it. We just look lost, but busy doing something. While lost. It’s weird.

All right, so I’m getting back into reality, and I’m starting to read parenting blogs again. Cool. I am always open for new ideas. Except, my body isn’t entirely back to 100% yet, so I’m yelling at my computer....

Why do mothers have logos?! This just dawned on me the other night (which greatly amused, and kind of frightened, Ben). I’m reading these blogs with super hip graphics and vintage photos of mothers all tatted up in aprons wearing a bandana on their head, stirring a bowl of something while wearing converse shoes. I can assure you, they are all way cooler than me. I get this impression with every new page. The thing is, I am not intimidated by magazine pictures of size 0 women frozen in a moment of glamorous beauty: I really don’t get fazed by them. Firstly, it is their profession to look beautiful (not mine). Secondly, they’re all photoshopped on top of it. I have seen enough “before and after” shots of the pictures, and the pictures in magazines are illustrations of women, not pictures of women. So I’m not intimidated by that.

I am intimidated by mothers who have crew cuts, tattoos, groovy clothes and 3 kids. In a clean house. I hate pictures of houses that don’t have jelly streaks on beige shag carpet, or dust building up on the unused piano, or coffee rings on IKEA tables. I don’t know what they are doing with their time during the day, other than cleaning (and being groovy by molding old vinyl records into cereal bowls...but I am a craft junkie, so I look at those in painful admiration).

Now, we had to have our carpets cleaned last year, and the carpet guy spent a good amount of time trying to get the tempra paint out of our floors. I was a little bummed that I was responsible for making this guy break out his industrial spray bottles normally used to treat oil spills in Alaska; but Ben was very encouraging and noted that the stains were made by our creativity spilling over or mud tracked inside after the kids were building forts in the backyard. So, really, these stains showed me where our priorities were: certainly not with cleaning (although I am getting a LOT better at this), but with giving our kids projects to create and build and explore. And there will be some consequences from this, such as slightly stained carpets. But what would the consequences be if we preserved the carpets and kept our kids clean all day? Where would the 5 foot tall fort be built then, or the dandelion/grass/mud soup be cooked? Where would their pictures of gnomes and transformers be painted? Not in my home, and not on my carpets...and what a shame that would be. I can buy new carpet eventually. I can’t buy Nova’s 8 year old period of painting back, or rebuild Glenn’s imagination. Those are our priorities. (end tangent)

So, back to logos. I guess I can’t be too upset with all the amazing graphics on websites. We were created to see, and we love to see things that are inherently, there is nothing wrong with jazzing up your webpage. The thing that got me was that mothers had logos. And I was just thinking that it seems like mothering used to be something that we did, and now it is something that we market to each other. Mothering blogs have taglines now. It’s just...different, and I’m working with that. Because it feels like if you have a logo or a tagline, you are trying to convince the reader that this person has value...and I am already firm in my value of myself. Perhaps in the back of my mind is the seed of doubt which might suggest to me that if these mothers have more value with a logo, that mothers without a logo and a catch phrase have less value. Something silly like that, but if you’re human you know these little silly ideas can be the small trickle of a stream that might eventually take down a forest by the roots. I think this is the bottom of my logo-hate.

Beside all this, though, brings up the most interesting thing I have noticed with the blogs recently which is the language. I am not an advocate of Puritanical speech, by any means. I absolutely have my moments of verbal piracy, with the childhood phrases of “yars” and “down the hatch with ye” turning into...more colorful versions (we’ll just say). But when do parents mature, exactly?

“9 Things I Learned In The Parent Encouragement Program, AKA Shitty Parents Anonymous”

This is known as “edgy parenting”. This is a parent who goes to the same classes and buys the same Target sippy cups as everyone else, but they swear in their blogs to be above typical parenting (I’m guessing). It’s edgy and modern, and it assures the reader that “this isn’t your parents’ blog.” I’m actually okay with this, and it is honestly a nice break from some of the typical reading I see, where every child is a delicate flower and you are the humble gardener....stuff like that. So I don’t mind a little grit in my day. However, there is a pretty big difference between “a little grit” and “I. Am. IronMom.” :

“Accept that your children are going to do annoying shit.”

“Never get locked into a power struggle...Because now you're in a power struggle with a kid, and you won't want to lose because you won't want them thinking you're a pussy, and they won't want to lose because, hey, what's an hour wasted to them?”

“Never do for a kid what a kid can do for him or herself. This was the big one. Sometimes, your kids will stand there for eight hours before they brush their teeth and you're just like FUCK IT, and you grab the brush and assault their mouth because it's EASIER to do things for them.”

“No drive-by parenting. You have to get down face-to-face with your kids to ask them to do shit. You can't stand at the bottom of the stairs and yell at them to stop fisting the dog. They won't give a crap. Dog-fisting is too much fun.”

These were just a few examples from one page. The dog fisting metaphor was really the straw for me. But I am finding, in general, if you want to be an edgy, hipster parent who is cool and awesome and has the best hand-made paper garland headbands for your two year old are going to swear and your are going to use weird metaphors which you would normally reserve for adult conversations.

So that’s when I thought: when do parents grow up? When do we stop using inappropriate language and humor to describe parenting, and start using more mature language to describe what we do for a living? Are we going to be “fisting the dogs” and complaining about “stupid shit” our kids do, or will we grow up and be leaders of our households, instead of just another kid who complains about having to do the dishes every night?

Do we mature when we are adults?

There was another blog I was browsing which had a big topic on having to get dressed nicely in order to take kids to preschool.

“And then I dutifully changed out of my pajama pants, put on a pair of workout pants, because everybody knows that workout pants are like Manhattan and pajama pants are Brooklyn in the world of pants without zippers, pulled on a hoodie, fixed my hair, snatched my flip flops and walked out the door.  I do this almost every morning that I take my son to school, and every day I secretly hope to see some mom who has decided to break our self imposed “no pajama pants” dress code.”

And at the end of a long list of comments of mothers who admitted they also, secretly, hated getting dressed when they dropped their kidlets off at school, there was a voice of reason (no, it wasn’t mine) who reminded everyone that in order to be good role models for their kids, they also must dress for the part. You wouldn’t take a CEO seriously if he was in purple sweatpants, and your kids shouldn’t take you seriously if you never get dressed either.

Now....I am writing this in kick-around clothes. I’m not saying you should be a fashion nazi about this. I’m just suggesting an “overall demeanor” of authority. There has to be balance in life between relaxing and working.

Under the umbrella of our position as mothers, though, it is our responsibility to be the role model for our kids first, and our appearance and behavior will guide them into becoming an adult who is cognizant of their own appearance and behavior; as opposed to adults who are completely unaware that their behavior could be obnoxious or at all unpleasant, for instance.

Role models and social influences are a big deal for your kids. Your kid will emulate their surroundings, so it is pretty crucial to be selective with what/who is around them. This is not only for how the child responds acutely, but also in the future how their influences and role models will shape whom they will become later. And some ideas will change over time, and some will take you by surprise. When I was in high school, The PowerPuff Girls were AWESOME. So I played a few episodes for my daughter, because it was like, empowering...and stuff. So, ya. I’ll just cut to the chase and say that The PowerPuff Girls are banned in my house. But Ninja Anime isn’t. It just depends on what you want your kids to focus on that will determine what you will and won’t allow around them.

This means sometimes you shelve certain language for certain times, and you put on some unwrinkled clean clothes on to take the kids to the park, and you display some good maturity to pass along to your kids as their primary role model.

But, in the long run, if you are parenting deliberately and not randomly, you’ll probably raise good kids anyway. I’m sure you already knew that ;)

I-Can't-Believe-It-Worked-Baked Beans

29 08 11 05:04 by tamr
I am totally convinced that I can make anything I used to buy in a can, by myself. If a machine can do it, I can do it. The other day I was looking at my pantry and trying to think what else I could make with beans, other than refried beans (which I have seriously and thoroughly mastered).

What about baked beans? I haven't bought baked beans in ages because it just doesn't last that long. One can can feed about two people for lunch...and although that is a great deal economically, it just doesn't get much bang for the buck in my opinion.

So I looked up the recipe online, and I found one that didn't involve any canned foods. You know the recipes that say "made from scratch" but they use canned beans, canned chili, canned soup? That's not from scratch, that's from a can. I want to make dinner from SCRATCH baby.

So here is what I did....and it isn't going to be the same process I will use next time, but this will give you an idea of how easy this recipe is.

First, the ingredients I was supposed to use were these:

1 cup dried navy beans 4 cups water 1/4 cup ketchup 1/4 cup maple syrup 2 tablespoons brown sugar 2 tablespoons molasses 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper 1/8 teaspoon chili powder 1 small onion, chopped

However, I didn't have everything I needed. And I am a little too busy to do all the "Cover, and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200 degrees F (95 degrees C), and cook 6 hours longer" kind of stuff. So here is what I did:

I took a bag of navy beans, 1/2 cup of lentils and 1/2 cup of split peas (just for some variety in flavor and texture. Why not?). Boiled them for an hour in a pot of water until the top was very frothy....this breaks down the beans and you don't get gas. Yes, this really works. You could also soak them in a covered pot of water overnight, but I was in a rush.

So you drain and rinse the beans, then throw them in a crockpot and add 1 chopped yellow onion, garlic powder, kosher salt (Cheers, Alton Brown), pepper and maybe a little paprika or chili powder (just a little). Then take a pork roast and throw it in the middle. Go ahead...just throw it in. Now cook for the day, and you should be ready for the next step.

Here is where I deviated. That night we were just bushed, and it was a long day and we needed to get out of the house. So I just turned the crockpot on low and we went out to chinese food. We came home and I put the food in a bowl and put the bowl in the freezer. Because that was the only place that I had room enough for this sucker. Two days later I got the courage to take the bowl out and defrost it. So this is how I finished the recipe:

You spoon the beans and onions into a huge sauce pan (not a pot). I had a ton of beans, and I actually filled 3 mason jars for later use (and put in the fridge). I then realized that we are out of ketchup. No worries! I put in a can of tomato paste and some white vinegar instead. Then I added 4 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons molasses (except I didn't have molasses, so I used honey), 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (I might have added more...I just kept pouring), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/8 teaspoon chili powder.

First I boiled all the beans in the saucepan to get them going. Then I put them in a silicone bread pan (it was the only thing I had clean) and baked it for about 20 minutes or so. In the meantime, I put the pork in the pan with a little bit of the beans, and just heated it up a bit.

But here's the thing: when all was said and done, they were the best tasting baked beans I have ever had. They were just PHENOMENAL. And I could eat about 1/2 cup of them, along with a small piece of pork. They were just astoundingly filling! It always amazes me how much more filling actual food is. I don't know what manufacturers do to their food, but food from scratch is hearty. Seriously hearty. And this is coming from a heavily pregnant woman. Plus, a 7 year old, a 6 year old, a 2 year old and a 14 month old ate every bite I gave them. And Ben LOVED it.

So that's what I did! It is an amazing recipe, and I would encourage anyone to try this!

Good Night, Mr. Brown

27 08 11 16:58 by tamr
Apparently Alton Brown is taping his last Good Eats show (it will be covering dark chocolate, if you were curious). Ben and I have loved his shows since they began, and anytime I have a question about something I reference Alton. Because he will tell you WHY you need an ingredient. I was won over when he explained why you need eggs in batter using synchronized swimmers and inertubes. It was just the fact that he explained the "whys" of cooking, instead of just accepting the recipe at face value. For those of us who agonize over why something is done, he has been a godsend.

His series, "Feasting on Asphalt," was equally amazing. I loved seeing where he ended up, and what he ended up eating. My favorite shows were when he was touring the South and getting in biscuit arguments with people.

"This lovely woman doesn't think I know what a biscuit is...EVEN THOUGH I GREW UP IN THE SOUTH."

"Honey, you don't know a biscuit from a dumpling."

I'm pretty sure there were wrestling matches when the camera was off.

To Alton Brown: We Salute You! (and thank you for all the recipes!!!)


#1. Alton Brown grinds his own peppercorns. With his teeth.

#2. Alton Brown's chili cheese fries are healthier than raw carrots. Even after he adds the bacon and lard.

#3. Alton Brown brushes his teeth with wasabi and gargles with pickle brine. But still his breath smells like lemon merengue.

#4. Alton Brown can boil a three-minute egg in thirty-seven seconds.

#5. When Alton Brown was born, he collected the hospital slop they'd left for his mother and made it into an zesty, appetizing goulash. The dish fed the entire maternity ward for a week.

#6. In the first, as-yet-unaired episode of Iron Chef America, Alton Brown single-handedly defeated an all-star team of Bobby Flay, Cat Cora, and Hiroyuki Sakai. The secret ingredient was 'whimsy'.

#7. Alton Brown doesn't reduce sauces. He demoralizes sauces.

#8. Alton Brown prepares his fugu blindfolded, with one chopstick and a plastic spork. Alton Brown ain't afraid of no chump neurotoxin.

#9. Alton Brown's blender has four speeds: 'stir', 'mix', 'frappe', and 'plasmify'.

#10. Alton Brown can split a pineapple in half using only his pinkies. For coconuts, though, he has to use his thumbs.

#11. Alton Brown knows where capers come from. And he grows his own, on a Chia pet in the pantry.

#12. On Rachel Ray's show, she shows people where to eat for less than forty dollars a day. When Alton Brown eats, people pay him.

#13. Alton Brown slices ham so thin, it can only be seen using an electron microscope.

#14. Some knives can slice through a tin can and still cut a tomato. Alton Brown's knives can slice through a Pontiac, and still cut a tin can.

#15. Grown men have been known to weep for joy in the mere presence of Alton Brown's vinagrette. His hollandaise sauce can kill a man from sheer ecstacy at forty paces.

#16. Alton Brown can eat just one Lay's potato chip. If he ever bothered to eat food he didn't make himself, that is.

#17. Alton Brown once got carried away slicing carrots, and julienned his cutting board. Undaunted, he sauteed the splinters in olive oil and spices --and they were delicious.

#18. Every Burger King Alton Brown has walked into has immediately closed forever --try as they might, they simply can't 'do it his way'.

#19. Alton Brown can pair a wine with any food --including hot dogs, ice cream, raw eggs, Alpo, sawdust, and soylent green.

#20. Alton Brown's cakes don't rise. They ascend.

#21. Some meats are so tender, they seem to melt in your mouth. Alton Brown's meats are so tender, he's had entire turkeys vanish into thin air.

#22. Alton Brown's no saint. But if his chicken Kiev cures one more kid's leprosy, the church will reconsider the evidence.

#23. Alton Brown doesn't whip potatoes. Alton Brown's potatoes whip themselves, if they know what's good for them.

#24. Alton Brown's other car is the Wienermobile.

#25. Alton Brown's show is called 'Good Eats', because 'Multiple Shuddering Mouthgasms' didn't play with the network's target demographic.

#26. Alton Brown's freezer operates at minus-twenty-seven degrees. Kelvin.

#27. Alton Brown once prepared shrimp gumbo for a cooking competition, using only salt, water, canned Spam, and a packet of Arby's 'Horsey Sauce'. He took second place. He would have won, but one of the judges was allergic to shellfish.

#28. Alton Brown can fit three hundred and forty-two cookies on a standard-sized baking sheet. Without any touching.

#29. When Alton Brown slices onions, the onions cry.

#30. Alton Brown was once asked to participate in a blind orange juice taste test. He was the only person able to successfully identify the brand, style, vintage, temperature, pH level, distance to the orchard, age of the grove trees, and the names of the workers picking the fruit. Including the one who needs to start washing after bathroom breaks.